Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Lessons of Feb. 5

I come away from the Green Party Presidential Primary with a whole list of lessons to be learned and hopefully there are some readers who will think a bit, and then act.

To begin with, the turnout for the Green Party, as a percentage of registered Green in California, dropped from 2004. That fact, by itself, would be worrisome. Given the fact that the Democratic primaries and caucuses across the entire country, have been pulling in record numbers of participants, our lack of excitement and growth demonstrates the need for change within the Green Party, but not necessarily the change that some are demanding.

Already, I have read posts from Green Advocates who continue to raise the issue of our apportionment formula being unfair. Well, they are all unfair. Is it fair that the Democratic Party allocates a block of Super Delegates and then gives a substantial number of those to the AFL-CIO? Is it fair that Democratic Party insiders have so much power as to be able to control the outcome of a close contest?
The category includes Democratic governors and members of Congress, former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, former vice president Al Gore, retired congressional leaders such as Dick Gephardt, and all Democratic National Committee members, some of whom are appointed by party chairman Howard Dean.
The only truly fair method would be to conduct a national primary and that, with its demand for high level financing through television / radio commercials is a guarantee that you get only the rich as candidates. It is time to stop whining like Mitt Romney. It is costing him votes and it is winning our whiners no new friends.

The second lesson that I take away is that we do not yet have any candidate who has a message that is capable of inspiring this country at this point in time. We do have candidates who will be able to pull in small segments of those who acknowledge the fact that they have been disenfranchised by the duopoly, but none will capture the imagination of a wider electorate with the messages they have used to date.

If Ralph Nader (who captured most of the California Delegates) ends up winning the nomination, I can only hope that he does not repeat his campaigns of 2000 / 2004 because that is not what the majority of American want to hear. It's tone was too angry, too negative and particularly in a year when even the Clinton's are having to bite their normally divisive tongues, it will win few new friends.

If Cynthia McKinney (who out polled Nader stand-in Howie Hawkins in Illinois) puts together enough states without primaries to win, she will also alienate many if her message stays negative. I watched one time Clinton Chief of Staff Leon Panetta on KSBW-Salinas last night. He underscored that Hillary Clinton wins (vs Obama) when she talks about what she will do and loses when she only repeats the experience vs. non-experience (of Obama) mantra.

Greens need to talk about what we will do, not what we won't do.

At this time, in this election, especially with the enthusiasm that Obama generates we have to be talking about making positive change and the creation of a better world. Americans are basically optimistic people. Until we have a candidate that can articulate what it means to be Green in a positive manner, who shows us a vision of tomorrow, we will remain merely footnotes to an otherwise exciting election.

The third lesson I see here is that this party professes to believe in grassroots democracy and yet seems to fail, time and again, at grassroots organizing. That must change. If we were doing what we need to be doing, we would see new groups forming and new faces of activism at the county level. Instead, we see the same faces, hear the same voices repeating the same things that we saw, heard in 2006, in 2004...

There are centers around this country where people are doing things the right way, where the party is growing and coming ever closer to electoral success in partisan races. Illinois is one state where the gubernatorial candidate polled over 10%. What are they doing right that we are not doing? It may pay to figure it out. From what I observe, they don't spend a lot of time fighting internal battles that originated years ago and which still fester.

1 comment:

Tian said...

A week before the primary I mailed out 1200 postcards asking people to vote for Cynthia McKinney. I mailed them to Greens in Mountain View, Palo Alto, and Sunnyvale. It was a bite of Santa Clara County, but not the whole thing. I did it because I wanted to donate to the Cynthia McKinney campaign, but I thought if I gave them money it would get spent on staff time, food, or airplane tickets. The other thing on the postcard was an invitation to my election night party. You can see my pictures from that by visiting:

http://tian.greens.org/MountainView/My/Clubhouse/index.html

To make a long story short, Carol Brouillet stole the show. We brought in at least half a dozen Greens that hadn't been active before. I haven't seen how the numbers boiled down yet, but I think we moved Cynthia from 18% to a quarter of the vote. It seems like the only County Cynthia took was San Francisco. I haven't seen that pattern since there was a gas tax on the ballot in 1994.